What the World Cup can teach us about teamwork

Even if you’re not keen on soccer, or sport for that matter, it’s difficult not to ignore the spectacle that is World Cup Soccer.  Try not to be swept up in the infectious beat of the official FIFA World Cup anthem ‘We are one (Ole Ola)’: “…show the world where you’re from, show the world we are one.”

The use of sport as a metaphor for teamwork is, of course, not new, but the lyrics did make us question the dynamics of coming together as one, while still maintaining a sense of ‘where we’re from’.  The work being done with and for immigrant and refugee women’s health is an excellent example how this ‘we are one’ anthem works in reality.  Women who immigrate to Australia, as with all individuals and groups, are culturally and linguistically diverse and differ from one another according to a whole range of other factors.  As an organisation that is committed to achieving health and wellbeing for and by immigrant and refugee women, the MCWH team (and this includes our partner organisations across Australia) is a representative blend of different cultures, ethnicities and life experiences. The importance of representation can never be underestimated when you are working towards improving your standing on the league ladder. If you’re from a ‘team’ that has been held back by virtue of your gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, age and/or ability it makes sense to have someone who is not only willing to play for you, but who can also show the world where you’re from.

Where we come from is just as important as where we’re coming from. Of course, improvements to immigrant and refugee women’s health require teamwork, but it’s very often solidarity and how everyone works towards our goals that count. In order to kick those goals, you need a game plan. Immigrant and refugee women’s health and wellbeing, in particular, needs a strategy that covers a wide field.  Health inequities are exactly that, the lack of fairness and justice in health. This lack is never simply a result of biology, but more about the lack of opportunities to prevent ill health and promote wellbeing. The plan is most likely to be most effective when immigrant and refugee women are controlling the play in the areas that impact on their health and wellbeing: affordable housing, stable employment, financial security, social inclusion, and healthy relationships. Violence prevention is a good start because for far too long it has been given the proverbial yellow card, while crisis response has continued to run the field. We need a game plan that will allow the teams of immigrant and refugee women (and men) to change the state of play and allow us to understand how violence can be prevented in the first place. This will require various players with various skills and talents, but it’s essential that immigrant and refugee women have the chance to show that they too can bend it better than Beckham.

As with soccer, not all of us can be a striker or a goal keeper, yet we each play a part in the team and we have an implicit understanding that we all need to do our bit to aim for the ultimate goal: health equity for immigrant and refugee women. Our eyes are firmly on the ball.